AZ Republican: Only 'Promiscuous' Women Need Contraception

by Gloria Rebecca Gomez, Arizona Mirror

A bid to make birth control a right in Arizona that was a top policy priority for Gov. Katie Hobbs has stagnated in the Republican-controlled legislature and is likely dead. 

The Democrat lashed out at the GOP on Thursday, questioning its support for contraceptive access. Republicans hold a one-seat majority in each legislative chamber, and every legislative committee chair is a Republican. Those chairs choose which bills get heard and which don’t move forward. 

“This basic, commonsense proposal hasn’t made it past step one,” Hobbs said. “It begs the question: Why won’t they codify this basic freedom into law? What do they have against allowing us to have control over our own bodies and access to basic health care?”

The governor unveiled her intention to push for contraceptive access as a right last year, and the Democratic lawmaker who initially sponsored the measure to accomplish that goal touted it as a way to put Republicans on the record about their reproductive health care stances. 

Dubbed “The Right to Contraception Act,” the proposal sought to protect the ability of Arizonans to obtain all forms of birth control, including Plan B, and guarantee the right of health care providers to prescribe contraceptives or give information about them to patients. It would also have outlawed any attempt to limit or infringe on a person’s ability to access contraceptives or a doctor’s ability to offer them. 

Both the Senate and House versions of the act were assigned to several committees, but neither was given a single hearing. 

One Republican’s response to questions Thursday about contraceptives highlights the challenges Hobbs and legislative Democrats face in guaranteeing the right to contraceptive access in Arizona while the GOP controls the legislative agenda.

Sen. Sonny Borrelli, the No. 2 Republican in the state Senate, responded to a question about whether he would oppose future efforts to restrict access to emergency contraceptives by saying that women wouldn’t need contraceptives if they weren’t so promiscuous.

“Like I said, Bayer Company invented aspirin. Put it between your knees,” he said, implying that, if women hold aspirin between their legs, they won’t be able to have sex and risk pregnancy.

Borrelli, a Republican from Lake Havasu City, said the idea that contraceptive access is under attack is fabricated. 

“They’re creating a controversy that doesn’t exist because nobody’s opposing — nobody has any kind of plan to ban any contraceptives,” he said. 

And he waved away concerns that emergency contraceptives, like Plan B, were the subject of attacks by GOP lawmakers in other states. 

“Not in this legislature, not this term, not this session,” Borrelli said. 

Democrats are campaigning on reproductive issues in 2024

Democrats have increasingly turned to reproductive health care to criticize Republican policies ahead of the 2024 election, counting on widespread support for contraception and abortion to increase voter turnout. 

That focus has been heightened following a court ruling in Alabama last month that determined embryos were covered under wrongful death claims and effectively shut down IVF treatments. Alabama law has a fetal personhood law that protects the rights of “unborn children” including their right to life. On Wednesday night, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a legislative fix that allowed IVF treatments to resume.

While Arizona doesn’t have a fetal personhood law in effect, Republican lawmakers have attempted to pass such laws in the past, and Hobbs warned that they will likely do so in the future, making the protection of contraceptive access imperative. 

Last year, Republican lawmakers introduced several bills that critics denounced as backdoor attempts to codify fetal personhood, including allowing pregnant women to drive in the HOV lane, extending child support to the first positive pregnancy test and giving pregnant women a child tax credit. One proposal, which would have increased penalties for domestic violence charges in cases involving pregnant women, made it to Hobbs’ desk and was quickly vetoed. 

“I’m proud to have vetoed that bill, but the fact that it landed on my desk shows the clear and urgent need to take action on reproductive freedoms,” Hobbs said.

Sen. Priya Sundareshan, D-Tucson, who sponsored the Senate version of the act, criticized Republican inaction on the bills as “cowardly.” 

She added that Arizona Democrats, who are hoping to secure a legislative majority in this year’s election, are focused on safeguarding reproductive rights, and called contraceptive access a “winning issue” because a wide spectrum of Arizonans support it. A February poll conducted by Americans for Contraception found that 94% of Democrats and 68% of Republicans viewed the Right to Contraception Act favorably. 

It’s high time Arizonans, and all Americans, frankly, ask themselves: Why is the Republican Party unwilling to do the same?

“Democrats are ready and willing, with bills in hand to protect every Arizonans’ right to contraceptives,” Sundareshan said. “It’s high time Arizonans, and all Americans, frankly, ask themselves: Why is the Republican Party unwilling to do the same?”

Bré Thomas, CEO of Affirm, the state’s designated Title X agency which mobilizes federal funds to connect Arizonans with reproductive health care and family planning help, said that securing access to contraception is critical in the post-Dobbs world. 

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to abortion has had significant effects on family planning in some states, including Arizona. The percentage of Arizona women who reported trouble or delays obtaining contraceptives increased by 5% after Dobbs, compared to the experiences reported before the high court’s ruling. 

Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, who sponsored the House version of the act, noted that abortion isn’t the only type of reproductive healthcare Republican lawmakers are looking to restrict. In 2021, Missouri Republicans unsuccessfully attempted to bar the state’s Medicaid program from funding IUDs and Plan B, and in 2022, Idaho Republicans discussed an outright ban on both. 

And it’s up to state lawmakers to erect preventative barriers against attacks on contraceptive access, Stahl Hamilton added. An attempt at the federal level to enact similar protections in 2022 failed.

“Because there is no federal law protecting the right to contraception, it can be taken away,” the Tucson Democrat said. 

While Griswold v. Connecticut established the right of Americans to buy and use contraceptives, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his Dobbs concurring opinion that the court should revisit that ruling. 

Republicans: Our voters don’t want to protect contraceptives

Although the two Arizona bills to safeguard contraceptive access at the state level are currently dead, having failed to meet the deadline for first hearings, bills can still be revived later in the session by gutting other proposals or with special permission from legislative leadership. 

But that’s likely to be a nonstarter. 

Senate President Warren Petersen told the Arizona Mirror that the party is focused on addressing voter concerns, and contraception access isn’t on the list. 

“Our constituents are not asking about contraceptives,” he said. “They are worried about the border, public safety, the economy and inflation. We are putting those on (Hobbs’) desk now.” 

And it appears that Hobbs herself isn’t doing much to push for the passage of the proposals, either. When asked by reporters on Thursday what actions she had taken to convince Republican leaders to consider the bill, she pointed to her executive budget, which included the act as a policy priority. 

She added that she hasn’t been a part of conversations between Republicans and her legislative staff, but said she’s made clear that the bills are at the top of her legislative agenda. 

“I made it a priority in my State of the State address,” Hobbs said. “It’s something that took up space in there, and means it’s a big priority.”

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

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